What is the meaning of life? This age old question has been the subject of so much speculation. What gives meaning to our existence is something that we know, in our own mind, has true significance, an importance that overrides all other considerations.
So we need to look to our mind to find this meaning. In my tradition, we have a powerful, effective method of gaining this knowledge: we practice in letting all our ordinary experiences—all of our constantly changing thoughts, emotions, beliefs, observations, judgments, and habitual tendencies (our “mental events”)—dissipate and dissolve from our perception. Gradually, we are left with an astounding experience: nothing but our pure awareness, without subject, object, place, time, boundary, or any other limiting characteristics. This pure awareness is the actual true nature of our mind, who we really are, our Pristine Mind. Once we know our Pristine Mind, we realize that all our mental events are not who we really are; they are temporary distortions in our perception that hide our unchanging Pristine Mind, just like clouds temporarily hide the open, boundless, pure sky that always remains the same.
Therefore, what gives meaning to life is knowing our Pristine Mind.
All beings eat food, have needs and desires, have relationships with others, strive to stay alive. But human beings have a special capacity: we can transform our ordinary thinking mind and thereby transform our entire experience of being alive. We need to take advantage of that.
So sometimes I think to myself: “What is the point of being human? I need to do more than just survive, striving to satisfy my ordinary needs and desires. What is important is that my consciousness is pristine.” If I realize my Pristine Mind, then I will feel I have really achieved something with my human life. Then everything I experience, I experience through the clear lens of my Pristine Mind, no matter the circumstances. Instead of striving for happiness by changing my circumstances and conditions, I can have unconditional happiness, no matter what my exterior circumstances may be.
If I let mental events, like hopes and fears, take over my mind, I don’t feel grounded; I feel like everything is out of control. It’s as if my world starts to disintegrate and fall apart. But when my mental events dissipate, and my mind returns to its natural condition, I feel like, “Whoa. This is such a stable, comfortable place. I can stay here. I feel grounded.” This can occur during my formal meditation or at any other time. That grounded feeling is such a powerful experience.
All the other circumstances we can enjoy, everything else we can achieve, is of secondary importance. Anything circumstantial in our lives is only temporary. We can easily lose it during this lifetime; we will definitely lose it all when we die. Our physical body, our fame, our wealth, our fortune, our success, our power, our influence, our position—all of that disappears. But when we have this beautiful consciousness that we have trained ourselves to appreciate, then we live with that consciousness and we die with that consciousness, and there is nothing in the world that can destroy that. We can live and die fearlessly and joyfully. I always say to myself, “I don’t want to die with a junky mind. I want to die in that beautiful state of mind. I want to live in Pristine Mind and I want to die in Pristine Mind.”
The best advice I can give anybody is to cultivate this experience of Pristine Mind, so that we can live and die with Pristine Mind. For me, that gives meaning to life.
~Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche is a meditation master in the Nyingma lineage of the Buddhist tradition. He studied for nine years at Larung Gar in Serta, Eastern Tibet, with his teacher, Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Dzogchen meditation masters of the twentieth century. Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the founder and spiritual director of Pristine Mind Foundation. He travels throughout the United States and around the world, teaching a broad range of audiences, including those at universities, tech companies and yoga centers, how to improve their lives through meditation. Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche is the author of Our Pristine Mind: A PracticalGuide to Unconditional Happiness.
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